The future of work – how to address the challenges of digital transformation

Oct 10, 2019

How do organisations achieve digital transformation and high levels of automation without neglecting the need to deliver instant profitability? How is it possible to keep employees fully engaged and on-side through the transition to smart technologies? Will decision-making put the profit principle front and centre or will the future of the workforce be given a high priority? These questions are becoming more difficult to answer and no organisation can avoid them.

Whatever an organisation’s chosen approach to maximising business value, an element of digital transformation is inevitable. In some industries, such as financial services, investment is urgently needed to keep pace with regulation or new market entrants. Others, such as construction may take a more long-term approach. Of course, investing to drive operational value is what powers the great disruptors of our age, such as Uber or Amazon Prime. Failure to invest, however, is likely to lead to depletion of operational business value and disenchanted workers.

Decisions about which technology to invest in and when, therefore, become critical. Whereas in the past, the CEO’s instinct was a decisive factor, now data is central, or should be, provided organisations can be sure of its quality and integrity.

The key is to have systems that deliver a single version of the truth so that all senior executives have the same credible data. This should simplify decision-making and ensure consensus. It’s then for the organisation to determine which of its business leaders are to make the decisions.

A business also needs to decide where to focus its technology investments and efforts. The advantages are potentially vast, but risk factors must be thoroughly assessed. If systems fail, what’s the backup plan? A rush to automate may jeopardise key relationships and productivity. In customer service, for example, people are still needed to guide highly-complex customer-facing processes. Internally, organisations are likely to use automation to eliminate routine jobs but may find their workforce starts to become disenchanted. It’s important to consult with employees and emphasise the positive aspects of automation in opening up new role opportunities and developing new skills.

This relates to another of the challenges of digital transformation – attracting the right people. Excelling in recruitment will revolve around having an employer brand and employee value proposition fit for the digital era.

Keeping talented employees requires real effort to create and maintain an attractive and dynamic, but responsive business culture. That could mean using a very data-driven approach. Employees accustomed to monitoring health or fitness on phone apps, for example, may respond well to regular access to workplace data illustrating their progress towards goals. They are likely to take more responsibility for career development. Each organisation must take care to get it right, always bearing in mind the firm evidence that happier employees are more productive. Technology is also a great advantage for senior managers, who can achieve hard, evidenced-based insight into employee performance.

All the points discussed above are considered in greater detail in the delaware Future of Work Whitepaper. But in summary we can stress the vital importance of having a single version of the truth that is available to all decision-makers. And while automation delivers benefits, the wider impact on the business must be examined. Employees need to feel engaged in digital transformation, and recruitment must ensure the right talent is locked into the business, strengthening its DNA. This is how organisations will excel at transforming the future of work.